Carbon--the basis of all organic compounds--appears destined to supplant silicon as the material of choice for future semiconductors. According to researchers, various structures based on the element that sits just above silicon on the Periodic Table can surpass silicon's abilities in thermal performance, frequency range and perhaps even superconductivity.
"Of the carbon technologies, diamond is probably the closest [to commercialization§] at this time, as work in diamond has been taking place for 15 years or longer," said Dean Freeman, senior analyst at Gartner Inc. "Most of the others still have a ways to go."
Three-dimensional carbon--diamond--offers 10 times the heat dissipation of silicon, according to suppliers currently hawking 40-nanometer to 15-micron diamond films on silicon wafers. Two-dimensional carbon--3-angstrom-thick monolayers called graphene--could dismantle silicon's roadblock to terahertz performance by attaining 10 times the electron mobility of silicon.
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